Johns Island, SC - Mullet Hall Equestrian Center on Johns Island, SC welcomed exhibitors to something truly special in horse showing. The Charleston Summer Classics, a Boutique Horse Show produced by The Classic Company, began its two week run by offering lots of Southern Charms.
Returning to the historical Low Country area for a second year, Bob Bell, Chairman of the Summer Classic continued the rebuilding of the original series with the expansion of the jumper offerings, new hunter classics, old favorites, and lots of fun social gatherings. “I started the Charleston Summer Classics at the Seabrook Island Equestrian Center in July of 1992, but the show out grew the facility after seven years and moved to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC where we stayed for several years.” Classic Company may best be known for producing larger events such as the Gulf Coast Winter Series in Gulfport, MS and the Atlanta Classics series in Conyers, GA at the Georgia International Horse Park, site of the 1996 Olympics, “but for years I’ve had this longing to return to Charleston…to our roots.” Bell said.
Bell has intentionally kept the Charleston event limited in size, up to 450 stalls, a design based around his memories of a by gone era in horse showing with it’s traditions and little nuances that made events truly unique. While putting these ideas into the modern day equestrian world might appear senseless to most, Bell takes it as an opportunity to introduce younger generations to “the glory days of family outings.” The Mullet Hall locale has it all for exhibitors- three beautiful rings, good footing, and nice stalls all set in a lush green environment of trails to explore or picnics to enjoy under the massive Hospitality Tent ringside or take a scenic 6 mile drive to enjoy some of the countries most beautiful beaches. “I wanted to return to the Charleston area largely because of the beauty and history surrounding it. Exhibitors make a real family vacation out of this event. There’s no shortage of entertainment-water sports at the beaches, historical downtown Charleston’s shopping, museums, and fine dining all only a short drive away and we’re making the horse show itself quite special.” Bell said.
The afternoons’ warm temps were cooled thanks in part to lovely ocean breezes, but the icy Margarita and Daiquiris’ gathering under the shade of the party tent provided by Poplar Grove Equestrian Center and Seabrook Island Equestrian probably did the trick more so. Classic Company’s own Robin Stoney served as a make shift Social Director for week one’s kick off, organizing a Welcome to the Islands party on Thursday evening at Red’s Ice House, located at the beautiful Bohicket Marina at Seabrook Island. Exhibitors were treated to a bounty of seafood delights, ice cold drinks, dockside seating and a gorgeous sunset. Saturday evening Seabrook Equestrian invited exhibitors to the big tent to enjoy a Fiesta Feast of Mexican delights ringside during the Charleston Summer Classics first Open Jumper Classic and of course Sunday morning found Bob Bell and Robin Stoney strolling throughout the grounds with a silver tray of Mimosas for all.
While the event may be small in numbers the competition was huge in talent, with exhibitors from all across the country including Camden, SC based trainer-rider Gary Young who took the division championship in the Green Hunters with the Isobel Goldsmith owned Montague. From Jacksonville, FL it was owner-rider Lee Cesery and her mount Marquis taking the division title of Champs in the Amateur Owners [36 & Over] while her trainer Keith Alaimo trotted away with the Green Conformation Hunter top spot. And for the Pre Green 3’ Hunters section it was Keith Hastings of Clemmons, NC riding Christina Gaither’s Rhondavous to championship honors. Over in the jumper arena, week one found Erin Whipple of Clarksville, MD paired with the Emily Williams owned Camarilla capturing the division title in the Child Adult Meter 1.15 Jumpers as well as being victorious in the NAL/WIHS Child Adult Jumper Classic. Owner-rider Katherine Coleman of Kiln, MS aboard Dartfield clinched the Child Adult Meter 1.10 division title and the pair placed second in the NAL/WIHS Child Adult Jumper Classic. “This is a wonderful vacation..I mean horse show. We have a competitive show and finish our days early enough to enjoy the beaches and restaurants! Classic Company is on to something here!” Coleman’s trainer Sean Steffee said.
Dating back to 1999, the Mystery Man classes are a summer classic favorite, thanks to Missy McCutcheon, who traveled from Texas to South Carolina to compete with her beloved horse Mystery Man for many years. It was during one of the final shows held at Seabrook Island that she teased Bell into holding a class requiring the rider to find only seven of the original eight jumps, since that was usually all she could find. And the concept was created, where each rider completes their course then trots to the judge and tells them which fence not to count. Unfortunately Mystery Man passed away the same year this fun idea began, and Bell decided to honor the special bond shared with his owner by bestowing his name to the class. This year’s winners are Caren Brouse and Aperitif from the Modified Adult Hunter section, Anna Wells-Sharp and Three Olives in the Modified Amateur Hunters, Bergen Sanderford and Unique for the Modified Children’s Hunters, and Victoria Flagg aboard Mustique in the Modified Junior Hunters.
New this year for the Charleston Summer Classics was their first USHJA National Hunter Classic, sponsored by Poplar Grove Equestrian Center. On Friday evening course designer Joe Carnicom had the pleasure of creating a two round spectacle for the 25 entries and the audience lounging around the main arena. Judging duties were fulfilled by Beth Neilson and Christine Tauber. The top 12 scores were invited back for the Handy round to determine the evening’s top pair. Rising to the occasion were the dynamic duo of Elizabeth Boyd, from Camden, SC and the Sarah Orberson entry Macket. Boyd is certainly no stranger to triumph in the USHJA Classics and Derbies as one of the sport’s leading riders and this event was no different with a first round score of 84 plus 4 bonus points. Their Handy round proved to be equally impressive with a score of 89 plus 9 bonus points for a total of 98, giving them a victorious overall score of 186.
Second place went to Tom Brennan aboard the Lynn Rice owned Blackstone, third place to Robert Mendoza riding High Tide for owner Seahorse Associates, fourth place to Elizabeth Perry-Merbler with Tribune for owner Laurie Barna, and completing the top five was owner-rider Victoria Flagg and Mustique.
Saturday evening saw the introduction of the $7500 Open Jumper Classics sponsored by Bohicket Marina at Seabrook Island. Allen Rheinheimer took on double duty as course designer and class judge for the entries. As spectators enjoyed a feast of Mexican specialties and cool summer breezes, the action in the ring heated up with only four advancing to a jump off. As the sun set Jennifer Ramsey, former member of the Canadian equestrian team, closed the day with Georgetown, TX based Ronda Stavisky’s Cielo B in the top spot. Second place went to Rod De Furia owned and ridden by Sherry Hill, third place to Verrazano with owner-rider Katherine Roddey, fourth place to Quick Son with owner-rider Haley Robinson, and finishing the top five was Le Beau Cheval with Elizabeth Porath for owner Meadow Hill Stables.
Finishing out the first week of awards was the naming of the Best Child Riders, based on the rider’s overall performance in their respective divisions. From the 3’6” height on a horse it was Kaitlin Porath riding OC, for the 3’ divisions on a horse it was Elizabeth Melton with Veritas, and for the Pony sections the winner was Bergen Sanderford riding First Edition.
Another point of pride for Bell at this event are the beautiful and historical silver trophies to which Grand Champions’ names will be added to carry on the rich tradition of the original Summer Classics. Also among the wonderful gifts handed out this week, Champions receive highly sought after Vera Bradley bags and the traditional Silver Charleston Spoon.
“We were blessed with perfect weather, great social gatherings, and good ole fashion fun this week! I can’t imagine it being any better, but we still have another week to do it all again!” laughed Bell. Week two will host the annual Unbridled Affair –the party all longtime exhibitors at Classic events look forward to most. This year’s party will be hosted at the Seabrook Island Country Club with a grand patio overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Bell closed the opening week with this observation; “I don’t think there’s anything quite as impressive as seeing both a rider and horse turned out beautifully among all the trappings of a classic social event. Our hope is to create a fun atmosphere so both older and younger riders can cherish their showing experience.”
For complete results or more information on the Charleston Summer Classics please visit www.classiccompany.com or call the office at 843.768.5503.
Photo Credit: Liza Boyd & Macket, Jennifer Ramsey & Cielo B ©Flashpoint Photography